The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday January 20th

Students offer healthcare to people without insurance at clinic

Hiep Huy Pham, a second year pharmacy student in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, researches the best, most affordable anti-depressant medications for a patient at the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) medical clinic in Carrboro. Pham says that volunteering at SHAC allows him to learn about patients' lives and struggles and "find the best medication that works for them."
Buy Photos Hiep Huy Pham, a second year pharmacy student in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, researches the best, most affordable anti-depressant medications for a patient at the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) medical clinic in Carrboro. Pham says that volunteering at SHAC allows him to learn about patients' lives and struggles and "find the best medication that works for them."

For patients who struggle to find an affordable place to receive health care, the SHAC clinic provides temporary relief for those burdens.

The SHAC clinic, run by students, operates in Carrboro every Wednesday night and is available to anyone in the community. It frequently attracts people from across the state.

“There’s a huge need around the community with the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid expansion not happening in North Carolina,” said Matt Givens, SHAC clinic co-director. “It still leaves this huge gap of patients who fall in that uninsured category and don’t receive any assistance for getting insurance.”

Although there are some patients who return to the SHAC clinic for months, it aims to be an acute care clinic, Givens said.

Adam Willson, co-director of SHAC, said the clinic tries to help patients transition to a more consistent health facility.

For the students who work there, the SHAC clinic also serves as a place for interdisciplinary learning.

“It’s necessary because a lot of these patients wouldn’t get care anywhere else if they weren’t coming to SHAC, and it’s also a great teaching model for students to work with other disciplines,” he said.

Givens said they send patients with chronic problems, such as hypertension or diabetes, to another branch of SHAC called Bridge to Care — which transfers the patient to a more permanent provider, like the UNC Department of Family Medicine or Piedmont Health Services.

That process may take as long as a year, Givens said.

To help patients receive health insurance during the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, which began Nov. 15, another SHAC sub-group called Get Covered Carolina will be at the clinic to help people apply for health insurance.

“We encourage people, if they are able to, to get on the Affordable Care Act because we recognize and tell them this is not a chronic care clinic,” Givens said.

“We don’t have the resources, and it’s much better that everyone has a primary care provider.”

Sherry Hay, director of community health initiatives for the Department of Family Medicine at UNC, said it’s important to spread the message that health care is affordable through the government’s website because many people receive government assistance.

“With the marketplace only being opened for three months this year instead of six months, that outreach, that messaging, that continued work is going to be key because we have a shorter window,” she said.

Duke University School of Law professor Allison Rice said it’s important for people to have health insurance because unexpected illnesses or accidents could hurt them financially.

“For some people, they might want to look and see what the options are through open enrollment and see because a lot of people, if you’re young and don’t have a lot of income, you might qualify for subsidies.”

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